Monday, March 10, 2008

A Dinosaur Book For Nonfiction Monday

I can take dinosaurs or leave them, myself. What I really like reading about are the dinosaur hunters of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins wasn't a paleontologist, but a sculptor. In the 1850s, he created sculptures of dinosaurs using information from paleontologist Richard Owen. The dinner party given inside one of his sculptures is the stuff of legend. Seriously, I heard about it years ago back in the day when I used to read dinosaur books aloud to a young relative.

The whole Hawkins' story is told in TheDinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley. The book covers the famous dinner party and the Waterhouse dinosaur exhibition at the Crystal Palace in 1854. In addition, Kerley tells me some things I didn't know. It turns out Hawkins tried to do for dinosaurs in the U.S. what he did for them in England.

The lengthy Author's and Illustrator's Notes at the end of the book make good reading, too.

And who illustrated this lovely book that Blogger won't let me show you this evening? Why Brian Selznick, of Hugo Cabret fame.

In her Author's Note, Barbara Kerley says that what drew her to Waterhouse Hawkins was the dinner party given in one of his dinosaurs. What draws me to his story is that he and Owen were wrong in their depiction of dinosaurs. This is not to belittle the two men. On the contrary, what fascinates me about this whole situation is that knowledge changes as we discover more of it. It can happen to anybody, even the greatest talents of any particular age.

Talk about something that's hard to accept.


Kate said...

I agree with you that this book is fascinating, even for those who are not particularly interested in dinosaurs. It has not gone over well with my elementary students though - not enough dinosaurs for the dinosaur fans, and too many for the others. I think that it is really a book for adult readers. But a jewel!

Gail Gauthier said...

I have to say I wondered about that. There's a lot of text at the end of the book--fascinating to history geeks like myself, but I don't know about littlies. And while the book looks like a picture book, there's quite a bit of text throughout. It could be another one of those picture book format books that really ought to be classfied as and marketed to adults.

Except we don't really do that, do we?